The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, journalist Sasa Dragojlo told N1 that Vietnamese workers employed to construct the Chinese Linglong tire factory in Serbia's northern town of Zrenjanin were "an extreme example of exploitation" which began in Vietnam and ended in Serbia."
Vietnamese workers’ life and work have been the focus of public attention for quite some time due to journalists who have reported on it and non-governmental organisations which have tried to help them, despite how the state and the pro-government media have spoken about it.
BIRN had access to an agreement signed by Vietnamese for their employment in Serbia, including a union ban, financial penalties for illness, fines for escape and false warnings about the punishment of „cutting hands“ for theft in Serbia.
„The documents that I came across show a chain of exploitation that starts in Vietnam and continues in Serbia. Vietnamese workers first signed a kind of agreement and forms on various obligations, with the Vietnamese agency which sent them to Serbia to work for the Chinese employer Linglong, as an umbrella company and the investor, and two subcontractors, Chinese construction companies that hired workers,“ Dragojlo said.
He added that the workers did not have contracts with anyone from the Linglong company but that they were formally and legally employed by the other two companies that were not from China but legal entities from Serbia.
„The contracts say that they should be engaged in the construction of the Linglong tire factory, but their formal employers are Serbian companies that came from China and registered here,“ Dragojlo said.
He added he had been dealing with „the labour exploitation for a long time, and I have not come across such an extreme example.“
According to him, the contracts stipulate that if a worker steals something, his hand can be cut off, and if he commits murder or some other crime, he can be killed.
„Even if they want to leave their job, they have to reimburse all the money they paid to that Chinese agency. There is also a ‘no escape’ item. If a worker gives up that job, his family guarantees that he will pay the sum of 2,200 dollars within six days „, Dragojlo said.
He added he had consulted with experts in labour law who confirmed numerous violations of Serbia’s legislation.
Speaking about the salaries, he said that most of them were paid to the workers and that the people he talked to were still short of one and a half wages.
„They send their money to Vietnam because that is their motive to come to work here. When you are desperate, you will agree to everything to provide yourself with a better life,“ Dragojlo added.